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JSTEPS: Using Rewards in Justice Treatment Programs: Technology & Contingency Management

This five-site research project aims to guide each participating court through the implementation of an individualized Contingency Management (CM) protocol. CM interventions use systematic reinforcement with rewards (or punishment) to alter problem behaviors, usually substance use, in offenders. Rewards have been used widely in clinical treatment programs. They have been shown to successfully change targeted behaviors of substance abusers, including decreasing the number of positive drug tests and increasing treatment attendance.

The process of developing and implementing such an intervention in criminal justice settings takes several steps. In this study, ACE! assists each court through the implementation from the formation of a local multidisciplinary team to the utilization of new technology tools, and the formation of a larger supportive network of courts also implementing a rewards system.

  Research Approach  
Research sites were given discretion in developing their own point systems for their local environments. They developed point systems where clients receive points for positive behaviors, including abstaining from drug and alcohol use, attending counseling and other supporting activities, and working toward long-term goals, i.e., looking for a job or attending school.

Behaviors are color-coded: red=criminal behavior, non-negotiable; orange=drug and alcohol use, non-negotiable for most sites; yellow=behaviors that support abstinence, such as attendance; green=behaviors that support recovery, moving toward long-term goals.

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  Translational Tool: JSTEPS Software  
A vital component of this study is the JSTEPS software program, a translational tool to create a behavioral contract and monitor performance. Charts are used to highlight client progress. The research team can receive regular downloads of the data from the software.

To sample the JSTEPS software, please review the instructions on this sheet.

We have also developed a mobile application of the software for use on the Blackberry Curve.

To learn more about JSTEPS software, please see the JSTEPS tool page.

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  EBP Principles to Translate into Justice Settings  
ACE! requested that site teams keep in consideration the following principles of CM when developing point systems.

  1. Provide positive incentives to clients via a point system.
  2. Establish clear guidelines about the required behaviors and which behaviors earn points.
  3. Emphasize abstinence as a key objective.
  4. Provide adequate incentives early in the program to get folks started on the right foot.
  5. Use point escalation to promote sustained good performance.
  6. Integrate point system into the normal operation of the court (e.g. phase systems).
  7. Use bonuses to reinforce incentives for positive behavior.
  8. Require no more than three behaviors at a time.
  9. Choose the areas where the client is “falling down” and shifting to a positive by rewarding his or her efforts to improve in that area.
  Site Feedback Reports  
ACE! researchers are providing feedback reports to sites at different stages of the project: planning; early implementation; and implementation. As part of the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Model, ACE! developed feedback reports to reiterate the principles of CM, summarize point systems, and provide questions for self-assessment—that is, input on areas where the sites have succeeded in implementing the principles and recommendations for improvement. We illustrate the potential point accumulation for clients at each site.

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  JSTEPS Project Resources  

Download the manual we developed for JSTEPS sites, which includes extensive information on CM and a guide to using the software.
Download the JSTEPS User Guide.
Download the guide to using JSTEPS Mobile (existing clients).
Download the guide to using JSTEPS Mobile (new clients).

Study Information Sheet

Download a summary of the CJ-CM research project

APPA Conference Materials

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On August 17, 2010, the ACE! team held a workshop at the American Parole and Probation Association’s Annual Training Institute in Washington, DC. The panel also included participants from some of our study sites--Greg Forest, Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the Western District of North Carolina, Richard Crawford, former Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the District of Hawaii, and Liz Kerwood, U.S. Probation Officer for the District of Hawaii. This workshop focused on the science behind the JSTEPS study, early findings, and the ways that some of the sites are implementing rewards and sanctions.


Dr. Faye Taxman (GMU) JSTEPS: Advancing Offender Outcomes
Amy Murphy (GMU) JSTEPS: Baseline Key Staff Survey
Dr. Danielle Rudes (GMU) and Dr. Shannon Portillo (GMU) JSTEPS: Qualitative Fieldwork
Greg Forest (Western District of North Carolina) North Carolina Western's JSTEPS Program
Liz Kerwood (US Probation Office, Hawaii) United States Probation Office District of Hawaii


NADCP Conference Materials


JSTEPS Session Featured at National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) Annual Conference. Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA. June 3, 2010

In June 2010, members of the ACE! team delivered presentations on JSTEPS and convened a forum of participating sites at the NADCP conference. We were joined by Joe LaFratta of U.S. Probation in Boston, Robin DeMello of U.S. Probation in Hawaii, and Mike Nicholson of U.S. Probation in St. Louis; these participants discussed their experiences as they work to implement JSTEPS.


Dr. Faye Taxman introduces JSTEPS, outlining the concepts and showing the software that was designed for this pilot project.
Dr. Pete Luongo describes the process of developing and maintaining behavioral contracts with the client and the importance of setting clear expectations.
Amy Murphy reviews the initial results from baseline JSTEPS surveys, which were distributed to staff at all offices participating in JSTEPS.
Dr. Shannon Portillo review the nature of the qualitative component of the JSTEPS study and shares some initial preliminary findings.


Initial JSTEPS Session Materials


Miami Hilton-Bentley Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida. January 11-13, 2010.

In January 2010, we convened a group of experts and each of the teams that will be implementing JSTEPS for a meeting to discuss the use of rewards in the criminal justice system. During the meeting, JSTEPS teams had the opportunity to develop their sanction and reward protocols, and to discuss behavioral contracting. The agenda included the following presentations:

The Neuro and Overall Science of Rewards: In this presentation, Bennett Fletcher of NIDA describes the effect of drugs on addicts' brains and the science behind using rewards with substance abusers.
Overview of the JSTEPS Study: In this presentation, Dr. Faye Taxman introduces the concept of contingency management and discusses the goals of the research cooperative.
Ideal Contingency Management Applications: In this presentation, Dr. Maxine Stitzer discusses the use of contingency management with substance abusers and how these principles can be applied in criminal justice settings.
Results from Step ‘n Out: CM an Effective Tool: In this presentation, Dr. Peter Friedmann reviews the outcomes of Step'n Out, a precursor to JSTEPS that studied the use of collaborative behavioral management compared with traditional parole.
JSTEPS Overview: In this presentation, Anne Rhodes uses screen shots from the JSTEPS software to walk the JSTEPS teams through the basics of the software, including entering client data and creating reports on client progress.
Ways to Do Contingency Management: In this presentation, Dr. Maxine Stitzer discusses the use of rewards and sanctions, introducing the concepts of bonuses, resets, and time-outs. This presentation also walks participants through exercises designed to help them develop their reward/sanction system.
Introduction to Behavioral Contract: In this presentation, Dr. Peter Luongo outlines the purpose of behavioral contracting and guides participants through developing behavioral contracts in JSTEPS.
JSTEPS Manual & Contracting: In this presentation, Amy Murphy and Nicole Jordan walk participants through the JSTEPS Manual and user checklists.
do Summary and Next Steps: Dr. Faye Taxman finished the meeting with an outline of the target timeframes for JSTEPS.


Second JSTEPS Learning Session Materials


On May 23-25, 2011, the second second JSTEPS learning session convened in Las Vegas, NV. The participating site presented on their progress as well as hearing from the research team. Please find the presentations below:

1 Luongo, P. "Common Process Issues are Really Common." Second JSTEPS Learning Session. Las Vegas, NV. May 23-25, 2011.
1 Luongo, P. "How to be a Consultant, or Identifying Process Issues Somewhere Else." Second JSTEPS Learning Session. Las Vegas, NV. May 23-25, 2011.
3 Murphy, A. "JSTEPS: The Software." Second JSTEPS Learning Session. Las Vegas, NV. May 23-25, 2011.
4 Luongo, P. "The Process Improvement Model: What the Industrial Engineers Know Can Help." Second JSTEPS Learning Session. Las Vegas, NV. May 23-25, 2011.


Rudes, D. & Portillo, S. "JSTEPS: Advancing Offender Outcomes." Second JSTEPS Learning Session. Las Vegas, NV. May 23-25, 2011.


JSTEPS Session Featured at National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) Annual Conference

National Harbor, Washington DC. July 18, 2011


In July 2011, members of the ACE! team delivered presentations on JSTEPS and convened a forum of participating sites at the NADCP conference. We were joined by Barbara Hunt of U.S. Probation in Reno and Judge Leo Sorokin of the District of Massachusetts. Ms. Hunt and Judge Sorokin discussed their experiences as they implemented and refined JSTEPS.

5 Maxine Stitzer, PhD (Johns Hopkins University): Contingency Management in Drug/Problem Solving Courts: Research and Practical Application
5 Barbara Hunt (U.S. Probation, Reno): Justice STEPS
5 Honorable Leo Sorokin (District of Massachusetts): Massachusetts JSTEPS CARE Program
5 Faye Taxman, PhD (GMU): JSTEPS: Advancing Offender Outcomes

JSTEPS presentation at the Steering Committee Meeting

Bethesda, Maryland. April 10, 2012


Faye Taxman and Danielle Rudes "JSTEPS: Advancing Offender Outcomes"
  Contact Information  
Amy Murphy, MPP
Project Director

Phone: 703-993-5222

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